In the context of the world that I live in and move around work wise, it’s pretty simple. When I read a Travel Alert by the State Dept. I interpret that that is a location that was not on their radar for being a prior risk and now recently in the last couple weeks has seen some sort of crime uptick, more than your usual arbitrary crime that any city would experience. Arbitrary crime being car thefts, muggings, robberies, etc…
A travel warning is when somebody is telling you that if go to City X the chances that you will run into arbitrary crime are high, how high?
Level 1= Exercise normal precautions
Level 2= Exercised increased precautions
Level 3= Reconsider travel
Level 4= Do not travel
These level are laid out under the State Dept. banner of Travel Advisory.
I don’t see the terms travel warning or travel alert anymore on the states website, probably because it left to much for interpretation and people were justifying going to places they should have never traveled to. I think that’s a good call by the state dept. to just say what the intel is pointing to, you can’t deny or dilute the facts in some of these places around the world.
BLUF: If you look western, or don’t look western but exude western behavior, or light complected, you might be a target for just being you. Stay aware, don’t get complacent and treat every place you travel to as a level 2. It could mean the difference. There are going to be times that you slip back to level 1 but that’s ok. Keep level 2 nearby.
BLUF: Bottom line up front!
Most of the times we spend our days in the background, they go to meetings and we wait outside, or downstairs, or wherever. But in that small window that we have sometimes to impress our client and show them that we are worthy of their business and that the costs are justified many agents fail. Here’s why:
- Get sucked in- speak only when spoken to and when you do be respectful and short, remember you have a job. The client is not your friend. They will try to pull you in…most clients are great people, they are wealthy, and kind, it will be hard for you to say no but keep your distance. It’s not your world. You have one and it revolves around providing top notch security.
- Poor training or lack thereof- No eating in motorcade cars ever…ever…., no smoking, dipping, no gatorade bottles in cars ( you know what I’m talking about), don’t answer your phone or have in your hand around client unless you’re off your corner and passing comms. Never on watch. Heads up.
- No after shave, cologne, sprays, etc… smell like nothing, if you have bad BO or some sort of chronic disease, seek a specialist and good luck.
- No radio(tunes) unless client asks for it, even then keep low, if the client insists on blasting the volume. use high noise earplugs. They work! and explain to them why it’s not good to do that.
- Be dressed to impress but stay comfortable and agile. Make sure your suits fit. Weights fluctuate!!!
- If you have a steady client try to get a uniform going that affords you max comfort and mobility.
- Sunglasses are for the sun, nuff said!
- Stay flexible and take care of the client, you may end up doing something not in your scope and not security related, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your security duties, do it. It may reap huge dividends and may be something simple. If your client takes advantage of your multi faceted skillsets then propose an assistant or hire on another agent to take the load off. If your client really needs it they won’t be discouraged. Educate your client respectfully and don’t be afraid to write up a debrief after every major movt. They will appreciate it in the end.
Just sayin! JG
I personally am an off and on facial hair kinda guy, when I work with agents that have facial hair all I ask is that they keep it trimmed and cleaned up. I believe employers that frown upon facial hair fear agents won’t keep it trimmed enough or that the look won’t have that secret service appearance which most want. In the end if you want to get the work you have to go by what your employer wants.
- Forget about your neck
- Get artistic
- Think employer won’t notice if you skip a day of shaving
- Forget that food likes to hang in your facial hair
- Play with your facial hair/twirl your mustache, hands off
So it’s kinda looking like the easiest thing to do is not have it at all…..
I’ve been in the military for a while and because of that I really don’t like shaving everyday, or at all. I remember having to shave in the field when in the army and having to put on a fresh coat of cammi paint right after. Absolutely hated that. I’m sure a lot of you can relate. People that hire us think of Kevin Costner and the Secret Service – clean cut, suits, high and tights- or low and stupid for those of you in the military. In the end, just get the work. At least you won’t have to put cammi paint back on after.
I’ve been sending guys into harm’s way since 2008 when I first started the company. From Marijuana Burns in the Sinaloa Region to Immigration Routes in Guatemala. This is not something I do easily and with a clear conscious. It takes me some time to decide on a couple of key factors and if the job is even feasible. I’ve turned down many details because the client wasn’t listening to what I had to say. Here are some of the key factors I consider when sending guys into Non-Permissive and Austere environments:
- Does the agent have to have a language capability?
- Does he look the part?
- What kind of Support do I have IVO the operation and how long will it take to mobilize?
- Should I let State Dept. know that we are there?
- Does my guy/team have cell phone coverage and does he need a SAT Phone?
These are just 5 of many factors a manager would have to consider. In the end we do a good area study, determine the threats and lead/plan thru Intelligence and historical atmospherics. Intelligence led, threat based all the way.
These are the words I remember hearing as I muscled my way thru military training. As the training got more physically painful I was always looking for ways to make the pain go away, which in turn led to cutting corners which in turn led to getting caught which then turned into more suffering. The consequence was usually something like endless pushups or sprints to the surf zone. It was a lose, lose situation from the start. So the good news is I got physically hard. Those were the days!
Recently I was asked how I managed to navigate myself and my clients through countless details in MX and South America without being armed. I tell them that sometimes we have armed agents in the detail but mostly we rely on our training to keep me us out of a bad situation. If I find myself in a bad situation I’m going to have to rely on my physical fitness in a huge way. Short bursts of strength and definitly the endurance to get us out of there. When was the last time you got in an all out brawl? Or even just a one on one with somebody? 30 seconds of max effort in a one on one situation for the average man depletes about 40% of your stored energy, so you better make it count. And that’s just one guy. If you’re going to be travelling the globe protecting your Principal(s) without a weapon in this day and age, you better have some skills under your belt…both on the combatives side and on the technical side.
Just saying, JG
I see this quite a bit, agents that get burned out and just kind of go thru the motions of providing security. Security agents aren’t super humans that can go on for days on end. They also just flat out get bored. Static security watches can be really taxing on the mind. You have a lot of time to think and contemplate your next move. And your next move is always getting off watch as soon as possible. Watches are fulfilling and exciting when the threat is high and there is real danger. Fortunately most watches CONUS are not high threat. Most are deterrence based. Some things that can make a watch more doable are:
- Give your Teams clear and concise post orders
- Rotate them often and give them their allotted breaks
- For longer contracts consider a 6 month rotation or 4.
- Stick to a consistent schedule so that agents can plan for personal time with family
- Pay your agents well
- Give your agents incentives for improving their qualifications
- Instill a good physical fitness culture
- Spend at least once a week talking to your agents alone and see how you can improve conditions or the environment
- Make them feel they can always come to your for issues and always make yourself available.
These are just a few things off the top of my head.
I am a gun guy, not a “Gun Nut” but a gun guy. I have been around weapons my whole adult life and am very capable and safety conscious. I train regularly and take care of my guns.
In some areas there is no question about having an armed agent around your principle. Those areas are locations where historically carjacking at gunpoint and kidnappings for ransom are high. In most of these locations unfortunately if your principle is taken there is a good chance they’ll get killed anyway so be prepared. If this is the case you need to be aware of these requirements:
- Is my agent proficient with his weapon?
- Can we (US) carry in this location?
- Which local nationals can carry in this location?
- Have I seen his credentials?
- What experience does my LN have in doing EP work?
Let’s not just get an armed guy and assume he’ll be able to get your Principle to safety or keep him safe. Although there are many great LNs. out there, unfortunately some are not trained as well and as much on weapons manipulation and safety. Bullets, range time, licensing, and weapons cost more in these areas and are hard to come by.
Ultra high net worth individuals and key persons in Corporate always warrant armed security. Even though good opsec may be in place you can have wrong place at the right time to be a factor.
In some areas on the border that are highly trafficked by US personnel, low incidence areas, daytime travellers, I would go without an armed agent, low profile vehicle in and out. No night time outings, staying in known areas etc…
Some Corporations absolutely demand it. Some do not and always want to go with the minimum. It is our job as a safety provider to educate them and make them aware of all pros and cons. Don’t take a job if you believe the client is trying to steer you a certain way. Give them the facts and the reasons and they will most likely understand your point. Also don’t put your own team at risk just to get the work. Saludos and be safe out there.
JG CEO-Eagle Eye Inc.